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Peter Thiel says Google’s decision to start an AI lab in China would aid Chinese military

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Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has called out Google’s relationship with China once again, this time focusing on the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) lab in Beijing and its potential use by the Chinese military.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Thiel wrote that AI is a military technology and suggests that any army could use computer vision, data analysis, and other AI tools to gain an intelligence advantage and perform cyber attacks.

He goes on to criticize Google’s decision to start an AI lab in Beijing in 2017 and then end its “Project Maven” AI contract with the Pentagon the following year by saying:

“Perhaps the most charitable word for these twin decisions would be to call them naïve.”

The reason Thiel gives for his criticism of these decisions is China’s principle of “civil-military fusion” which requires all research conducted in China to be shared with its People’s Liberation Army. He also cites comments made by former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter last month:

“If you’re working in China, you don’t know whether you’re working on a project for the military or not.”

Thiel’s opinion piece is the latest in a series of criticisms he’s levied at Google for its relationship over the last month. At this month’s National Conservatism Conference, he questioned whether Google had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence and called for the company to be federally investigated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He followed these comments by presenting further arguments about how Google was letting the Chinese government infiltrate the company during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

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